A transvestite speaks during the consultative meeting at Peshawar Press Club on Thursday. — INP
A transvestite speaks during the consultative meeting at Peshawar Press Club on Thursday. — INP

PESHAWAR: Participants of a consultative meeting have expressed concern over the government’s apathy to solve the problems being faced by transvestites and urged the rulers to give them rights like other male and female citizens of the country.

The demand was raised at the meeting, which was held under the aegis of Blue Veins at Peshawar Press Club on Thursday. Representatives of civil society organisations and a number of transvestites belonging to various districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa shared views on the occasion.

Blue Vein’s programme director Qamar Naseem, director human rights Noor Zaman, Zar Ali Khan, coordinator of Tribal NGOs Consortium, Taimur Kamal of Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network and shemale activists Farzana and Neena spoke on the occasion.

Issues being faced by transvestites, especially those affected by conflict and displacement, were discussed in detail. It was discussed that transvestites did not have the same level of rights as other Pakistanis had and rather they were harassed, discriminated, and subjected to violence simply for being transgender, and living on the margins of the society as entertainers, beggars, etc.

Demand made during consultative meeting

Representatives of the transvestite community spoke against various departments, including PDMA, FDMA, UN agencies and international organisations, and stated that their population was nowhere on the development and humanitarian agenda of the government.

A transvestite, who identified herself as Neena from Mardan, said that the transgender people were the first to displace from Fata, but no one ever looked at their needs. Neena said they were not registered with any government department and UN agency and they were completely overlooked by the departments concerned.

Neeli, a transvestite activist, said that the 2005 earthquake, 2010 floods and displacement from Swat and Fata also affected their population, but no attention was paid to their plight.

Mr Qamar said that the consultative meeting was meant to sensitise the people in identifying gaps and preparation of recommendations on how to increase the legal protection of transgender people and ensure their human rights.

He said that gap existed in disaster risk reduction and emergency relief programmes. Relief efforts typically use the family as a common unit for analyzing and distributing relief services. As a result, relief aid rarely extends to the transvestites.

Mr Zaman said that transvestites were equal citizens of Pakistan and they had recorded their genuine concerns. He said that he would make every effort to take up their issues with the relevant government departments.

Zar Ali Khan said that the situation of these people was heartbreaking.

“Ration schemes are targeted only at men and women, while transgender people are denied entry to the IDP camps because they do not possess proper government ID that matched their appearance. In the host population they are not welcomed and they routinely face discrimination in access to the housing, medical care and protection.”

Shemale activist Farzana said that transvestites usually experienced rejection, stigmatisation, harassment and physical violence. She called for ensuring provision of emergency relief to vulnerable communities, including shelter, nutritional and medical support and assistance in recovering livelihoods.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2015

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